Motherhood is not a Competition.

Via Kate Bartolotta
on May 10, 2012
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via Time Lightbox

Breastfeeding is a wonderful thing.

I’m a huge advocate for breastfeeding, and for natural and attachment parenting in general.

I agree with most of the moms in the Time article. Breastfeeding is something I’m passionate about and I’m glad I was able to feed my children that way. Breast milk is the perfect food for children under age one, and the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding your child until age two or until mutually satisfying for both mother and child.

Extended Breastfeeding (or EBF if you are into the whole mommy bulletin board scene), helps with brain development, prevents obesity, boosts the immune system and the benefits continue to increase the longer a child breastfeeds. Scientists are finding new ways that children benefit from breastfeeding all the time.

For women, it reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and often helps women with postpartum weight loss (until those last five pounds that stay as long as you’re nursing…but that’s a totally different blog).

A few things you should know:

The choice to breastfeed is a personal one; it doesn’t make you a good mom if you do it, or a bad one if you don’t.

Breastfeeding does not make you more or less of a woman.

Breastfeeding is not remotely sexual, weird or anything negative.

Breastfeeding might change your breasts, but sometimes for the better.

Breastfeeding in public is your right in 45 states.

(Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise).

Supplemental formula feeding does not make you a bad mom (it just might make it harder to keep breastfeeding).

The age at which you stop nursing your child—by his choice or by your own—is not what makes or breaks your value as a parent.

I nursed my daughter until she was 22 months old and I was eight months pregnant with her brother. I nursed my son until he was 21 months old. I needed to be done. It took me another year to not feel guilty that I didn’t give them the same amount. It also took most of that year to get over the guilt of not participating in “Child Led Weaning,” or for the uninformed, letting them decide when it was time to stop.

Even writing this, I get that little knot in my stomach of, “Oh, but I could have done more. I should have done more” and at the same time I know some people will read this and think it’s weird that I breastfed so long.

As mothers, we will always want to give our children more. It’s how they survive. There is a primal drive in us to nourish our children—physically and emotionally.

But what works for one family isn’t what works for all families. What one child needs is not what all children need.

Pretty basic, no?

Then why the hell are we in constant competition with each other?

If you breastfeed too long you are a weirdo, too short and you’re selfish. Damned if you work, damned if you stay home. If you wear your baby you’re a hippie, if you use a stroller…well…I’m pretty sure your child is going to end up with attachment issues. Don’t even get me started on where your children sleep, or whether they fall asleep alone—no matter what you choose to do, someone is bound to think it’s awful and you are scarring your kids for life.


photo: Time lightbox

What makes a good mother can’t fit in a Time magazine article.

Good moms nourish their children, and also take care of themselves.

Good moms know that sometimes it’s too hot to have anything but watermelon for dinner.

Good moms let their kids pick out their own clothes even when they end up in an ensemble of Batman pajamas, a tie-dye shirt and rain boots (true story) and they still cringe inwardly and hope no one judges them.

Good moms sometimes yell (but keep trying not to and aren’t afraid to apologize).

Good moms breastfeed for one month, or one year, or four years—or not at all.


Good moms sometimes hover too much, or not enough, and they keep trying to get it right.

Good moms aren’t Tiger Moms or Helicopter Moms or any other media invented phenomenon.

Good moms are all of us who care enough about our kids to think about this stuff;

to get the knots in our stomach when we see a news story about a kidnapped child;

to make shadow puppets, play I Spy, make up stories and invent colors;

to dance with their kids to The Ramones in the kitchen and sing into spatula microphones;

to say “no” when we have to, and “yes” as much as we can;

to say “screw you” to the people who want to put “motherhood” into a box and say there’s one right way to do it.

Because there isn’t. Because if you are a mom, and you care enough to read this, to think about it—you’re already “mom enough.”

Happy Mother’s Day—every day.

Like elephant family on Facebook.



About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is a wellness cheerleader, yogini storyteller, and self-care maven.
She also writes for Huffington Post, Yoga International, Mantra Yoga+ Health, a beauty full mind, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds.
Kate’s books are now available on and Barnes &

She is passionate about helping people fall in love with their lives.

You can connect with Kate on Facebook and Instagram.


72 Responses to “Motherhood is not a Competition.”

  1. paul says:

    Ablow is all about maintaining and reenforcing empty and sterilizing gender-norms, it's why he works for Fox. This op-ed is his fantasy, and is as much about attacking strong family bonds existing outside a male dominant frame as it is about how imaginative narcissist musings can be. Like a "healthy" narcissist, he couches his bullying in kindness, and claims as evidence things he has made up.
    I flipped through the rss and found your deleted comment with your own misogynist (and so too narcissist) musings parelleling Ablow's, as well as this one, "Because it gives Hugh Hefner a huge hard-on? Because he and the models role-play attachment parenting? Just guessing….Maybe I'll call the mansion and see if it's on the Mansion Kink List? If I hear anything, be glad to report back…"
    You've complained about a yoga as a girls club, yet write like you're in a boys club – even while seemingly complaining about boy clubs.
    To the longer comment that was deleted, you say the picture is "profoundly psychologically abusive" or "kiddie porn" or unloving or that her kid was a prop to "the needs of her breast" let alone a "representation of contemporary female narcissism as expressed in this woman's brand of modern motherhood" (yet Ablow's narcissism is ok?), all as if she took and published the picture herself. Men do far worse to men and women than mothers.
    I find your charge that the "yoga devotee" is a narcissist curious, do you have any evidence for this?

  2. yogasamurai says:

    10 years suffering through the spiritual "excretion" known as as the modern yoga studio has been quite enough of an education into the pathology of 20-something female narcissism in the yoga world thank you very much.

    This is a very widely held view – by women and men alike. You sound like a newbie. You might come over to Recovering Yogi. The site was founded with this critique in mind. The critique of yogic narcissism has also been at the heart of the debate over Anusara Yoga and its recent demise, which has been a Godsend of sorts.

    As long as you're stalking me, you might as well read what I have had to say on this and related topics for some time. Go the Guardian, the Huffington Post, Counterpunch, the World and I and various other sites. Be glad to walk you through the issues. You seem to need an education.

  3. yogasamurai says:

    I have no specific agenda in mind here, Kate, and I like that you posted this.

    But, in theory, isn't there potentially a big difference between breast-feeding for say, 3 years (the Michael Jordan example you cite) versus 6 years (the example Suri cites) — or 6 years versus 9? Developmentally?

    Is there any research on this? You're the house expert, or one of them, so what would you say?

    It seems like your approach here is, well, whatever a Mother wants is fine, and as long as the child isn't being chained to her breast, then it's fine, too.

    Anyone who suggests otherwise is just a misogynist sexist pig and any woman who complains is intolerant and has probably sold out to the Man.

    Is it really all that simple?

    Isn't there more to an analysis of what's right or wrong for a woman or a mother to do than LEGGO MY EGGO?

    Because that's basically all we seem to hear these days from women who want to do their own thing, and really don't care what anybody else thinks?

    So a whole host of possible issues just get swept under the rug in the name of feminist political correctness.

  4. paul says:

    I see now what my confusion was- you use yoga to mean the studio class teaching of postures, exercise and relaxation, and the culture that surrounds it (which seems to be how you know yoga), not yoga as a personal meditative practice. I am a newbie, you are correct, I've never been in a yoga studio class, so I know of this culture only thorough stories on the internet. But even in these stories, the narcissism comes from the few loud voices that seek to dominate any scene they might be in, while others find supportive groups to enjoy with. I think it's good that narcissists find their way to yoga, as it can be a great light to their own actions they might never have given themselves access to.

    And to clarify (as I was suffering conjunctivitis), if your deleted comment was about how icky you thought the picture was, or questioned the benefits of breast feeding, I would not have considered it misogynist. But it was (like Ablow) a declaration that the model was abusing her son, that the child was "exploited for the narcissistic self-gratification of the mother," and that women who breast feed after some (unmentioned) acceptable age do not respect their sons. You wrote, "the fact that none of the female commentators thus far seem to understand how lurid and disturbing this image really is speaks volumes." By "volumes" the reader is expected to believe that because all women replying here or any yoga devotees are narcissists (and by extension most any woman), they can't see their own narcissism. Ablow is a bit more sly, but it is the same idea that women cannot think and must be instructed, which is classic misogyny. Regardless of the sexism, it is as arguable that it is abuse to deny breast milk on-demand, something said to be the practice of hunter-gatherers, alongside learning-as-play, an invitation to acceptance, trust and sharing.

    Victory to Mother!

  5. paul says:

    Here is an article is about hunter-gatherers (which I'm usually very wary about thanks to the weston pricers) but it has a lot of resources. It doesn't mention a weaning time-frame though as it is about on-demand breastfeeding.

  6. yogasamurai says:

    You misread my comments, I think, but that's okay. And victory to Fathers AND Mothers, Dude. No one holds up more than half the sky, though women seem to have forgotten that of late, and yes they do need to be reminded – not "instructed" – since, well, they do seem so very forgetful. Thanks for sharing.

  7. I feel like the comments have gone so far afield from the intent of my blog. It should be fairly obvious from the rest of my writing on the site that I am more focused on true equality than feminism, per se. I could have just as easily written this about "families" and family choices rather than specifically mothers, but the Time article focused on mothers and Mother's Day is this week.

    This isn't about women wanting to do their own thing. The larger point is about humans making the best choices they can for their families—and accepting that there is a wide range of normal and that what works for one is not what works for all.

    It seems like you and Suri_k8 immediately jumped to worst case extreme examples of parenting rather than addressing (or even arguing with) the actual point I was making!

  8. ashleybess says:

    I agree! I was totally not saying that ALL formula-fed babies are doomed to a life of eating issues. However, I do think formula feeding makes it more likely that these issues will exist, and I do believe that three generations of formula feeding has contributed to our country's obesity epidemic. "There are so many other factors that support, or break down, a child's innate feeling of safety and comfort" – TRUE! I agree with all your points. I apologize if I made it sound as though I believe formula feeding "dooms" a child. I know there are situations – adoption, severe prematurity, etc. – where it is simply necessary.

  9. ashleybess says:

    The breast is not a sexual object. From a biological standpoint, the exclusive domain of the breast is nourishing a child. It is our culture that has fetishized it as a sexual object. How could breastfeeding be considered sexual abuse? Breastfeeding is designed to be pleasurable for the mother and child but not sexually arousing. It doesn't magically become sexual to a child at a certain age. Personally, I do think that 8 years is too old. I breastfeed my 2.5 year old, however, and will probably allow him to go until four if he wishes. But I do not see how it could possibly constitute sexual abuse.

    And, to reply to your other point, breastfeeding is not just about the benefits of the milk. To me it also contains a spiritual dimension; once out of the womb it is a manifestation of our connection to that Source and a natural extension. Besides that, it's about comfort and intimacy. Forgive me if I can't articulate this side of it that well – it's truly experiential. If someone opposed could momentarily inhabit the body of a mother breastfeeding her toddler or preschooler I believe they would see the beauty and sweetness of it and see the absolute error of labeling it disgusting or perverse.

  10. Ahimsahome says:

    Oh please. As a mother of 4 children and a dedicated breast feeder to each till they were about 2 years old (a little over for two of them) let me tell you something. First the recomended age to breastfeed to by the World Health Association is 2 years and beyond. Would America be a better place if all of our babies were breast fed? Highly likely. The studies back up the major list of reasons why this might be a good thing i.e. higher IQ, healthy childhood/adult body weight, secure attachment, etc. About 74% of babies are breastfed at some point in their babyhood in America. Not as bad as I thought. My children are healthy, happy, secure young adults. I did have to wean 2 of them and the others self weaned. I was just done and when I felt myself resenting it, that was the time I knew it was time to stop. I was 15 when my stepmother had my little sister. She nursed her till she was 6 yeas old. I did think it was a little odd at the time, but today she is an amazing person. She graduated on a full scholarship from Barnard and has traveled the world since she was a young child. At 27 she has visited and served through peace making work in nearly every country in the world. Her mother raised her deeply attached and like my own experience with my children, it helped form her into an extremely secure, brave and stable adult. I personally think that nursing till over a "certain" age is something that takes effort to wrap one's mind around. I think a study on children that have nursed till 4 and over would be intriguing. I have no idea what it would show. There is obviously no nutritional needs at that point if the family is able to secure a healthy diet. I have always thought of extended nursing as "etheric nutrition". One thing that I do know is that in a certain way it is silly to argue when to wean your child as they will forever be nursing on your consciousness.PEACE xo P.S. I'm personally more concerned with parents feeding their children SOY! yuck!

  11. 2kidsinmybed says:

    Lovely article, Kate, and so well said. As mothers we need to start supporting each others' choices, not rendering judgement.

  12. "P.S. I'm personally more concerned with parents feeding their children SOY! yuck! "


    Thanks for your thoughts. I hope that the more people are open their experiences, the more extended breastfeeding will be the norm, and that we can lighten up and encourage each other instead of beating up on each other's choices.

  13. Tonda Strohmeyer says:

    A covey of oldsters are writing on the similar place owing to this one, but unconditional is completed in a special passage here. aliment corporal up.

  14. […] She carted me and my two siblings around from swimming, to tutoring, to ballet, and back again without even a hint of resentment, never asking for anything in return, never expecting any sympathy or thanks. So when my sister and I […]

  15. […] I am a mother who is doing her best at the most challenging job on the market. My children are loved, honored, appreciated and well cared for, but I make mistakes constantly. There is nothing that could have prepared me, cautioned me or equipped me with the tools to make it through parenthood without daily bruising to my ego, my heart and my body. […]

  16. […] some amazing mums and babies that I chat, cry and celebrate with. We’ve tried to avoid the sense of competition that I’ve heard can insiduously infiltrate mothers’ groups, taking what should be an environment of compassion to one of one-upmanship and […]

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  20. guest says:

    Agree with most of the article, but let's make a difference between the women that want to breastfeed but cannot for major reasons and those that are too "modern" and busy with their careers to breastfeed and just have a baby to tie the hubby down or for the "happy" family picture.
    Back in the day, breastfeeding was the ONLY way to feed babies, formulas were conceived by greedy opportunist companies wishing to both destroy the natural mom-baby bond and make money off it in the process.
    If we lived like our ancestors moms would have no choice but to take time off to take care of the baby and breastfeed it as long as it needs it.
    Our DE-civilization is far from Nature and its natural roots.
    And let's not talk about the amount of waste and plastic (oil-based) that bottle feeding and disposable diapers create.
    Yes, it's nice to want to be a mother but shouldn't the people that produce offspring care more for the very planet they will leave to their offspring?
    And that care includes being closer to what Nature has prepared our bodies to do.
    It is frustrating that there are too many people having children without really doing anything to contribute to a better planet by being more conscious about the environment and what we as a generation or species are leaving as heritage to future generations.

  21. Kariha says:

    You actually expressed that wonderfully!

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